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Review: Fangirls at the Bille Brown Theatre

By Regan Baker

2019 is turning out to be a year of reminiscence. From my 10-year high school reunion to Fangirls, there seems to be an inevitable force trying to remind me of what it was like to be a teenager – but thank goodness those days are behind me! Fangirls is an incredibly true-to-life production that seems just a little bit too real to have been completely fictional. We would all remember our awkward high school days of racing to find young love while also battling with self-identity, and Fangirls replicates these emotions perfectly on stage. If you’re looking to be transported back in time to relive the ‘glory’ years of high school drama, then Fangirls is the show for you!

Fourteen-year-old Edna is fiercely smart, but according to her friends she is just a little bit too immature for her own good. What everyone else thinks of her won’t matter when her real life begins, however – with Harry. There’s just one small problem. Harry is the global heartthrob and lead singer of True Connection, the world’s most popular boyband. Edna sees past the fame, the fortune and the incredible hair though and believes she is the only one who can set him free from an overbearing manager that is keeping him from true happiness.

Born from the incredible mind of home-grown Australian talent, Yve Blake not only wrote the book, lyrics and music for Fangirls, she also plays the lead role of Edna. Her performance was truly electrifying, and her embodiment of Edna’s character demonstrated immense passion for the role. She was rightfully awkward when she needed to be, but strong and leading when she knew what she wanted. Blake stood out for a number of reasons in tonight’s performance, but her unsurpassed talent was encapsulated by her powerful and controlled vocals. Her voice was strong, her pitch superb and her enjoyment in delivering the lyrics translated brilliantly.

There is no possible way to spit out just one or two other standout performances as each member of the cast was equally brilliant. Kimberley Hodgson played an incredibly familiar character in Brianna – as everyone knew a Brianna when they were growing up. A real follower. Someone who just goes along with the majority, but eventually stands up for themselves. That type. And Hodgson’s portrayal was superb in this role. Chika Ikogwe was powerful as Jules and Ayesha Madon, James Majoos and Sharon Millerchip played a variety of roles throughout the evening and nailed every one of them.

Director Paige Rattray filled the space of the Bille Brown Theatre well and in collaboration with designer David Fleischer, lighting designer Emma Valente and AV designer Justin Harrison created an audio-visual spectacle that transported the audience from bedroom, to high school locker room to concert halls with ease and finess. The execution was stunning and brilliantly translated onto the small stage considering the number of scene changes that were required.

On the surface, Fangirls explores the themes of young female fans and how their behaviour and ‘relationships’ with global personalities are typically laughed off by others as being silly and frivolous. But more deeply than that it explores the highly relevant themes of what it means to be a young female in modern society and what is truly important in this world. Is being Hot important? And what is hot? Should I be strong and independent? Or am I defined by the man I end up with? Fangirls is a truly empowering piece for young women to show their strength as changemakers and their fierce friendship, loyalty and independence. And looking from the outside in (as a male), Blake’s story shows us that dejecting women for their interests is the more immature act and shows a lack of understanding to their psyche. After all, we don’t get ridiculed for liking sport; so why should we alienate women just because their interests are different? Fangirls also brilliantly ties together themes of struggling to build healthy relationships with friends and family, as well as issues with body image, self-worth and the dangers and benefits of fan communities.

Brilliantly written, superbly executed and funny from opening to closing numbers, Fangirls was an amazing night out and one worthy of sold out seasons across Australia and the world.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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